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September 22, 2015

Officer Gives Family Intrusive Questionnaire

Scott Woodruff Senior Counsel Scott Woodruff helps members and advocates for homeschool freedom in your state. He and his wife homeschooled their children.
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Before the 2014–2015 school year began, a Quincy area family withdrew their child from public school in order to homeschool him. Soon afterward a truant officer came to their house. He said he was just checking on the child, since the family’s homeschool program was not registered with the state. The family explained that homeschoolers are not required to register, and the truancy officer said he knew that.

He then handed them a questionnaire to answer. Its self-described purpose was to determine whether the family’s program was “at least commensurate with the standards of public schools.” It asked for the education level of the parents, whether their child had been classified as a special education student, how many minutes of instruction were provided daily, and what subjects were being taught. It asked for any other information that might be helpful “in determining the success of your child.”

Compliance Questioned

At the end, the form said, “After reviewing your response, or lack thereof, to this inquiry, a determination will be made as to whether or not your child is in compliance with the compulsory attendance laws.” The family asked HSLDA for help.

Senior Counsel Scott A. Woodruff wrote a letter to the truant officer. He explained that public schools have no jurisdiction over private schools (in Illinois, homeschools are considered private schools), and that private schools are not required to provide education “commensurate” with public schools. He noted that “the success of the child” is not a legally relevant question in determining whether the child’s attendance at a public or private school satisfies compulsory attendance. Finally, Woodruff pointed out that it would violate due process principles for the agency to take action against the family merely for choosing to ignore the questionnaire. He suggested that the officer close his file.

The family heard nothing further from the truant officer.

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